September 2023

Keep an Eye on Sports Supplements

A new study found that 89% of tested botanical sports supplements had inaccurate ingredient labels. With fall sports kicking off, this is a good time to remind patients about the risks associated with these types of products.

Since the ban on ephedra in 2004, a variety of botanical ingredients have become more common in sports supplements. Rauvolfia vomitoria, a plant found mainly in West Africa, is one such ingredient. It naturally contains the chemical rauwolscine, as well as yohimbine and reserpine, which are prescription drugs. While these chemicals are found in only small amounts in the Rauvolfia vomitoria plant, it’s often unclear how much of these chemicals end up in Rauvolfia vomitoria supplements, making safety and proper labeling a real concern. Other compounds with stimulant or anabolic effects, such as methylliberine, turkesterone, halostachine, and octopamine are also found in plants and added to these types of products.

After testing 57 products listing Rauvolfia vomitoria, methylliberine, turkesterone, halostachine, or octopamine, a recent analysis showed that 40% of the products didn’t contain detectable amounts of the labeled ingredient. In those that did, amounts ranged from 0.02% to 334% of what was listed on the label. Furthermore, 12% of the products contained at least one ingredient banned by the FDA, including 1,4 DMAA. One product contained 4 different banned ingredients.

Remind patients that sports supplements are a particularly risky product category. Products are often mislabeled and may contain dangerous ingredients. Review our FDA Dietary Supplement Ingredient Directory for more details on banned and unsafe ingredients in supplements.

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